Who would have thought that a sweet, gentle four-hander about a Christian youth group in a small village could be so moving, and so brilliant? Everyone’s been raving about Operation Greenfield for months, and I can see what all the fuss is about. The cast are brilliant in their wide-eyed wonder at the world, as they explore their (mildly troubled) relationships with God and each other. The piece is a charming and delicate exploration of the tricky transition through adolescence, but backed up by a such a wealth of talent that it never teeters on twee or saccharine.
Dominic Conway is brilliant as the sulky and bossy Daniel. He plays a teenage boy well, without “doing a Kevin” or falling into cliché – sample line “It was good when you kissed me”. Eugenie Pastor as Violet, a French girl thrust into village life after her father dies, is sweet as the unknowing recipient of Alice’s (Shamira Turner) first stirrings of affection. The single lesbian kiss proved too much for the audience of mostly schoolchildren, which was a shame as it was sensitively done and not at all gratuitous.
Music holds the whole piece together – it is both central to the plot (will our intrepid heroes win the Stokely Annual Talent Competition? ‘Course they will!) and enjoyable to listen to. The fact that the ensemble also play as a band should demonstrate the skill levels here, and the music is incorporated into the story with dexterity and humour. I felt that the last musical number could have been cut entirely – the play felt finished and then there was one more tacked-on song which felt like overkill in an otherwise perfectly judged story.
There is a real feel of Enid Blyton re-imagined for the twenty-first century: the innocence of boy/girl relationships is here but not in a twee or old-fashioned way. The simple but profound subject matter is handled adroitly, and with humour as well as pathos.